Joshua Cohen (writer)

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Joshua Cohen
Joshua Cohen BBF 2010 Shankbone.jpg
Born (1980-09-06) September 6, 1980 (age 39)
Somers Point, New Jersey
OccupationNovelist, story writer
NationalityUnited States
GenreJewish, Literature, Speculative Fiction

Joshua Aaron Cohen (born September 6, 1980) is an American novelist and story writer, best known for his works Witz (2010), Book of Numbers (2015), and Moving Kings (2017).


Cohen grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, spent his summers in Cape May, New Jersey and went to school at Trocki Hebrew Academy before transferring to Mainland Regional High School.[1] He currently lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He reads both German and Hebrew and has translated works in both languages into English.[2]

Work and career[edit]

He attended the Manhattan School of Music and studied composition. Cohen does not have an MFA, and has expressed disdain for the degree. In 2017, Granta Magazine named him to its decennial list of the Best Young American Writers.[3] Cohen lived in various cities in Eastern Europe between 2001 and 2006, working as a journalist.

Cohen's works have received acclaim. Witz was named a Best Book of 2010 by The Village Voice. Four New Messages was named a Best Book of 2012 by The New Yorker.[4] Book of Numbers was named a Best Book of 2015 by The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and New York Magazine. Moving Kings was named a Best Book of 2017 by New York Magazine and Bookforum. Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction was named a Best Book of 2018 by Wired.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Harold Bloom said, "Call It Sleep by Henry Roth, Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth, and quite possibly [Cohen's] Book of Numbers are the four best books by Jewish writers in America. Moving Kings is a strong and rather hurtful book, but that helps validate it. Book of Numbers, however, is shatteringly powerful. I cannot think of anything by anyone in [Cohen's] generation that is so frighteningly relevant and composed with such continuous eloquence. There are moments in it that seem to transcend our impasse."[5]

His essays have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, The Jewish Daily Forward, Nextbook, Tablet Magazine, Triple Canopy (online magazine), Denver Quarterly, The Believer, The New York Observer, The London Review of Books, N+1 online, Guernica Magazine, and elsewhere.

Cohen was the New Books critic for Harper's.

Cohen was involved with writing the memoir of Edward Snowden, Permanent Record.

Cohen, in the words of Edward Snowden, "help[ed] to transform my rambling reminiscences and capsule manifestos into a book.” The New York Times writes: "It’s like a recursive loop of life imitating art imitating life; in Cohen’s “Book of Numbers,” published in 2015, a novelist named Joshua Cohen is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a mysterious tech billionaire … whose search-engine company happens to be sharing information with government agencies."[6] The New Republic writes: "Despite Macmillan’s black op to keep the book under wraps, over the past year, New York literary circles have buzzed with the news that novelist (and a contributor to The New Republic) Joshua Cohen had signed on as the famed whistle-blower’s literary interlocutor, traveling to Russia over the course of eight months to help Snowden, now 36, organize and improve his narrative...Enlisting a noted fiction writer to tell his life story might strike casual observers as odd, but Snowden and Cohen are both obsessed with the ways in which tech has transformed self and society. Cohen, who has published eleven books since 2005, has elicited comparisons to David Foster Wallace, Philip Roth, and Thomas Pynchon, expansive, digressive writers who, much like Snowden himself, have enjoyed praise, weathered backlashes, and garnered cult followings. Both Cohen’s and Snowden’s gregariousness can shade into garrulousness; their writing and speech teem with grandiosity and introspection, a combination that appeals to their admirers and grates on their critics. (Cohen’s best-known work, Book of Numbers, follows an author named Joshua Cohen who has been hired to write the memoir of a Silicon Valley CEO who is also named Joshua Cohen.)"[7]



  • Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto (2007)
  • A Heaven of Others (2008) (completed in 2004)
  • Witz (2010)
  • Book of Numbers (2015)
  • Moving Kings (2017)

Online Only[edit]

  • "PCKWCK" (2015) (The world's first live-written novel)[8]

About "PCKWCK": The Daily Dot, The Believer.

Short fiction[edit]


  • The Quorum (2005) (completed in 2001)[9]
  • Aleph-Bet: An Alphabet for the Perplexed (2007)
  • Bridge & Tunnel (& Tunnel & Bridge) (2010)
  • Four New Messages (2012)
  • ATTENTION: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction, Random House, 2018, ISBN 978-0399590214


Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Emission 2011 Cohen, Joshua (Spring 2011). "Emission". The Paris Review. 196. Cohen, Joshua (2013). "Emission". In Henderson, Bill (ed.). The Pushcart Prize XXXVII : best of the small presses 2013. Pushcart Press. pp. 236–271.


  • Attention: Dispatches from a Land of Distraction (2018)

Book reviews[edit]

Date Review article Work(s) reviewed
November 2012 "New books". Reviews. Harper's Magazine. 325 (1950): 83–85. November 2012.


  1. ^ DeAngelis, Martin. "Former Cape May resident receives glowing reviews for 800+ page book, Witz", The Press of Atlantic City, July 30, 2010. Accessed January 23, 2018. "Joshua Cohen sits in front of his house in Cape May. Cohen, who grew up in Linwood and spent lots of summers in Cape May, has written a new novel, Witz.... Not bad bookish company for a kid who grew up in Linwood and Cape May, went to the old Trocki Hebrew Academy in Margate and then to Mainland Regional High School, and who worked some summers at his uncle's docks across the bay from Cape May - when he wasn't being a slot cashier at a few Atlantic City casinos or a semi-professional guitar player at gigs around Ocean City, Ventnor and more local spots."
  2. ^ Alter, Alexandra (12 June 2015). "Nothing to Hide and Nowhere to Hide It in Joshua Cohen's Internet Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  3. ^ [1]
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  10. ^ [6]
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  12. ^ Archived 2011-02-04 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ [8]
  14. ^ [9]
  15. ^ [10]

External links[edit]